Rage over rice prices: Saudi consumers accuse traders of monopolizing market

Published March 13th, 2016 - 12:17 GMT
Mecca retailers have been accused of colluding to fix rice prices. (AFP/Farjana Khan Godhuly)
Mecca retailers have been accused of colluding to fix rice prices. (AFP/Farjana Khan Godhuly)

While the price of rice has dropped 50 percent globally, local retailers have raised their costs by 15 percent, causing outrage among consumers, according to a report in local media on Friday.

In Makkah, citizen Thamer Al-Qathami said that the government should expose and punish those doing so because they were taking money out of the pockets of people. There should be a boycott of those monopolizing the market, he said.

Mohammad Al-Harbi called on the Ministry of Commerce to check the prices at restaurants because the cost of rice and chicken was rising, while prices abroad were dropping.

Hasan Al-Zahrani said that the ministry must pursue “greedy” people monopolizing the market. There should be electronic boards at the entrances of all markets with the price of food — including vegetables, fish, milk and bread — like there is for precious metals, he said.

Economist Fadhel Al-Buainain said the price of certain types of rice fell by 50 percent on global markets at the end of 2015, without any equal fall in the Kingdom. On the contrary, there was a 15 percent increase, he said.

He said this was a tactic used by retailers locally to try to fool the commerce ministry. They would drop their prices and then claim that they are supporting consumers.

Al-Buainain said rice traders often collude to fix prices, which is worsened by poor controls. He said prices should be subject to supply and demand. There was no justification for raising prices because import costs were falling dramatically.

Abdulkhaliq bin Dawood, a retailer and owner of the Bin Dawood and Al-Danube companies, said the reason for the increases was that a few importers monopolized the market.

He said prices depend on the type of rice. Indian rice has dropped 9 percent, but was increased in the Kingdom gradually at the beginning of this month. He said every person consumes on average 45 kg a year.

There is great demand in Makkah, which is exploited by importers and merchants. In addition, population growth of 3.5 percent a year and the age of consumers also influences the price.

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